time to say goodbye


-- चार हजार दो सौ पचास-दो --

I had an unusual evening last night, which I completely expected. It just ended in an unexpected way. It ended with a very emotional goodbye to Ivan, which was in sharp contrast to when he moved out after the first time he lived with me, in January 2015: "He had said he would be up when I got up this morning, but maybe he just meant Shobhit, who wasn't to be leaving the condo until 9:30," I wrote at the time. "I never got a chance to say goodbye to Ivan before I left. But, I'll see him again in three days anyway, which makes it easier -- I feel like I'm being weaned off the best roommate I've ever had rather than having to quit cold turkey."

I actually was always bummed that Ivan left that time without saying goodbye, and I always wondered if he did it deliberately just to avoid the associated emotions, but again, he did come back for some more of his stuff in just a matter of days (the three days wound up being postponed to seven but whatever), so it was not long at all before I saw him again. What actually made that goodbye far worse was that Shobhit left to go back to L.A. after the 2014 holidays visit on the same day, and I was left with a terribly lonely, empty condo for a full four and a half months before I met Tommy, the next roommate to come along. Those few months were the loneliest I experienced probably since college. But, thankfully, Ivan kept in touch throughout his next year in Olympia, and we hung out much more often when he moved back to Seattle in early 2016, and by the time Tommy moved out in November that year Ivan had been so eager to move back in -- after a succession of less than ideal roommate situations elsewhere -- he was actually nagging me about it for several months before Tommy even moved out. He was asking me constantly if Tommy had left yet.

As of April this year, I have known Ivan four years, and I have seen his emotions get the better of him exactly twice. Both were related to his most recent unrequited love, the most recent one a bit less significantly so as it was part of a large mix of things associated with current goodbyes, which I'll get to momentarily.

This guy's name was Andrew, and Ivan has long had an irrational longing for him. He told me recently they never technically "dated," just hung out a few times, but he's never made it a secret to him how he feels. He first told both Shobhit and me about him when we were hanging out for a while on the New Year's Eve that rang in 2015, so only days before he moved out the first time -- "I'm in love with him," he told us, quite directly. "But it's unrequited." I'll never forget the way he said "unrequited," because he pronounced it as though it rhymed with "acquitted." Un-re-quitted.

Andrew had come over to hang out once not long before this, at our place, and I actually met him just that one time. They watched some TV together. By the time another year passed, though, and Ivan was visiting me and the cats in the condo after going to dinner on January 31, 2016, he was thrilled to find there was a letter from Andrew -- because, for some reason, letters never reached him properly at Evergreen State College in Olympia and so he had him just use my address. And this letter was very dispiriting to Ivan, which I wrote about briefly at the time: He stayed a lot longer than expected, which was totally fine, and probably largely due to his disappointment with a letter from an ex he had waiting for him and had been very excited about. He read it right then and there, which surprised me.

Ivan had sent him a $50 gift certificate, and Andrew had sent it back, saying he could not accept it. I always felt that, since Andrew did not feel the same way about Ivan, this was actually wholly appropriate -- but, Ivan was crushed. Not long ago I had a conversation with Ivan about how little in touch he is with his emotions, and I brought this up as the one time I've seen him even close to crying. "I felt so bad for you that day," I said. "So did I!" he replied. I remember even giving him a tighter hug than usual when we said goodbye as he left that evening, which kind of made him giggle nervously.

Well, fast-forward to last night, and that day two years ago was nothing compared to what I saw in Ivan yesterday. He was experiencing a visible anxiety the likes I had never seen. I really thought I was going to be the only one who would get emotional last night, but boy was I wrong.

He wasn't home when I got home from work, and I made myself dinner. Shobhit had gone to Bellevue to accompany Sachin at some real estate event he wanted him to come along on, so Shobhit didn't get home for another few hours. Ivan came in the door as soon as I sat down to watch Scott Pilgrim vs. the World on HBO Go, really just to kill time; I didn't want to spend Ivan's last night at home in my bedroom. And when he came in the door and said hello, at first I said, "How was your last day at work?" At first he misunderstood me: "I didn't work today." I replied, "I know. I mean yesterday." And he said, "Oh, it was fine. A little emotional." That was all the detail I got about that, but I still found it notable since he had also mentioned Drew (the latest guy he dated, same name, a coincidence) getting emotional when they said goodbye after spending the day together last Thursday.

And then Ivan spent the next couple of hours finishing up his packing while I watched the movie. It ended right near 8 p.m., so I spent the next hour or so watching Olympic figure skating -- something I have not gone out of my way to do in years and years, maybe fifteen or twenty. Ivan made his dinner during this, and sat down at the table to eat for a bit, until getting back to his packing.

I asked Ivan, finally, if there was anything I could do to help; I was starting to get concerned that he would not be ready to take his stuff down to storage until after my usual bedtime. At first he said no, "I'm just finishing up." Shobhit returned soon after this, and was oddly interested in the snowboarding competitions. And then Ivan came out and said there actually was something I could help him with: he was having a hard time following the directions on how to set the combination locks he'd bought for his luggage. I managed to get it pretty quickly, and now I know what one of his luggage combinations is. He set the second one on his own. It was a somewhat strangely convoluted process, but was easier to get done than it looked judging by the directions.

Then, finally, around maybe 9:30, Ivan said he was ready to take the rest of his stuff down to storage. We had to go in two rounds; he had one small suitcase, two boxes and his computer lap desk thing he uses for his laptop in bed, a rather nice wooden contraption. We took all but one of the boxes down the first round.

I could easily see at this point that something was paining him, clear anxiety etched across his face. He kept looking at me and holding the gaze, something he does regularly and took me a little while to get used to (one of his many idiosyncratic behaviors likely attributable to his aspergers / OCD tendencies), but he was doing it more than usual last night. Finally, when we were in the elevator, I said, "What's wrong?" Usually when I ask a question like that he immediately deflects, but not this time. "I'm just wondering if I'm making the right decision," he said. Well, of course he is, I assured him. He's going to have a great time. "This is the last time I'm going to do this," he said, referring to packing up and moving to an unfamiliar city, which he's done several times in his life -- this being the third time he's left Seattle; the first time he went to Minneapolis and came back in short order because he hated it; the second was when he spent 2015 in Olympia at Evergreen State College. He told us the other day he wound up back in Seattle after Olympia because "I had no choice, really," being close to completely broke and needing a job, then finding one that gave him a $2000 sign-on bonus. This time, he's spent the past year saving up for this huge trip traveling Europe for three months, after which he'll finally realize his dream of moving to Vancouver, B.C. Now, he continued last night, "It's time for me to settle down."

Strangely though, after being so excited about all this leading up to this new chapter in his life, yesterday all that seemed to come to a screeching halt, replaced with worry. I suspect that will be just a short phase, and he will be well engaged with his travels right quick. Still, he also shared something that happened yesterday which did not help at all: he was coming back home and passed Andrew -- the first one, the one he still pines for -- on the sidewalk, even said hi to him, and Andrew completely ignored him and passed without saying a word. Now Ivan was saying, "I'm pretty sure it was him," as though he thought maybe he got the wrong guy. But no one that in love with a person (no matter how shitty they apparently are) is going to mistake someone else for them. I'm sure it was him, and while I do suspect Ivan has perhaps historically been obsessed with that guy in a way that would understandably make him want to keep his distance, I still think that was hurtful, and it makes me angry. It's actually the second time this has happened, Ivan crossing his path, saying hi, and getting ignored. Ivan deserves better, and I've told him as much.

Ivan has kind of admitted to being unfairly contemptuous of Seattle as a city: "I've been emotionally destroyed twice here," he said. The first was Bo, the husband who cheated on him, causing Ivan to say strenuously always that their marriage not working "was entirely his fault" -- and, by all accounts, Bo has willingly taken the blame. They married before even moving in together, only lived together briefly, and have been separated since, I think it was 2013? In any case, it always sounded to me like Ivan was a little naïve in his approach to that relationship -- or, well, perhaps a lot of them. Anyway, Andrew is the second example, and given that he keeps running into the guy on Capitol Hill, it's no wonder Ivan wants to get the hell out of town.

In any case, that incident yesterday clearly did not help at all how emotional Ivan was already feeling. Seriously, even observing him in the elevator on the way down to the storage unit, he looked close to tears, which was extraordinary to me. I had never, ever seen him like this, and it was clear it was not just having run into Andrew, but everything: Andrew; a succession of goodbyes over the past week or so; this being his last day here; uncertainty about the future. "I don't know what's next," he said. I think he was beginning to feel a little overwhelmed by all the uncertainty.

We took the last box downstairs, and now the storage unit is full of a lot more than I initially envisioned when I offered him the use of it -- as in, probably three times as much. I was thinking, like, two or three boxes. There are three moving boxes, a shoe box, a garment carry bag, a suitcase, and the computer lap desk. It all still fit relatively easily though, so, it's fine.

"Thank you, Matthew," he said, yet again, just like he did when we took the first round of things down on Sunday. I went to brush my teeth and take out my contacts, then came back out to the living room to sit with Shobhit for a bit, work on the crossword, and bide some time until I finally bit the bullet and said my last goodbye to Ivan before going to bed.

I did this at right about ten o'clock. I got up and walked over to Ivan's open bedroom doorway. I think I may always vividly remember this moment, seeing him kneeling on the floor at the foot of his bed, rolling a shirt for packing into the suitcase he'll be traveling with. He actually sort of stalled for a minute, and I stood there for a few moments before even saying anything. When he first glanced up at me, he shook his head, almost as if to say, No, I don't want to deal with this. A wave of clear anxiety washed anew across his face. "Time to say goodbye," I said, a touch of melancholy clear even in my own voice.

He finished rolling the shirt, set it on his bed, got up and walked over to give me a hug. And when he hugged me he said, "Thank you for everything."

We disembraced and, again, he looked so close to tears I was amazed. In that moment, he looked closer to it than I was, which was truly the inverse of what I ever expected. Then there was a somewhat awkward exchange of "Bye" from each of us; I turned and went to the bedroom.

I had already mostly gotten ready for bed, so all I had to do was undress and get into bed -- although I did message Ivan a link to the poem I posted last month, "My Wish For You," which I wrote expressly to send to him at this moment. (He sent a message reply half an hour later that said only "Thank you," which was really all I could expect.) And then, right after getting into bed, as if suddenly catching me by surprise, I promptly began to cry. I heard Ivan blowing his nose and have no idea if he cried at all or if he just had a runny nose. He told me not long ago that the only time he ever broke down crying was when he was at the airport in Europe several years ago, headed back to the U.S. after his first big international trip, because he was so heartbroken about having to come back to the U.S. Well, this time he'll return for one night in May -- staying overnight with us -- and promptly go north to Vancouver the next morning.

I cried more than I thought I would. I really thought I might get away with just briefly getting a little teary, as happened when I hugged Tommy goodbye the day he moved out in November 2016. But I was a little taken aback by Ivan yesterday, how uncharacteristically emotional he was, particularly in the context of saying goodbye to me. I was truly moved by it, and so it made me a bit more weepy than I bargained for.

Although I did not sleep especially well, I did still fall asleep a bit faster than I thought I would, after lying in bed awake and wiping away tears for maybe ten minutes. I slept soundly until I awoke again, for some reason, around 3:30 a.m., and it took another hour or so to get back to sleep again. Then I was up at 5:10 or so. Got ready for work, and as I left this morning, I slipped the farewell card I had made under his bedroom door. Featured on the front of the card is the collage of him with Shanti -- his favorite person -- that is seen at the top of this entry.

And then I was off to work, finally closing the door on this chapter.

-- चार हजार दो सौ पचास-दो --


And now? Time to move forward. We all knew this living situation was temporary, even if Ivan said when he first moved back in that he expected to be here until fall of 2018 -- and then went back and forth about deciding to leave sooner. And if ripping the band-aid off had to happen sometime this year, it might as well happen now rather than later. This very week I intend to move stuff around in the condo, to fill up the empty spaces left by Ivan, so the whole place looks lived-in again by Shobhit and me. Our own space, again, in the kitchen cupboards and -- hallelujah! -- the refrigerator and especially the freezer. I can bring a bunch of frozen samples home from work today, finally!

That, and I'm being a little strategic here. I want the empty spaces filled up as much as possible so Shobhit will think less about wanting to bring yet another roommate in to take up those spaces again. I think we both will very much like having the whole our home to ourselves again. It's been eight years of distractions, some of them worse than others. I think it's a good time for Shobhit and me to settle down in our own way.

I woke up this morning and, almost as if by magic, felt much better. I did get slightly teary again writing about last night but that's it, and am otherwise fine and ready to move on. I'm already thinking a lot about plans to make with lots of other close friends over the next months, including an idea I have about starting to have friends over for dinner on a much more deliberately regular basis. I need to talk to Shobhit about that.

-- चार हजार दो सौ पचास-दो --

And today is, of course, Valentine's Day. I'm actually posting this entry backdated so it shows up below the poem for Shobhit that I posted this morning -- I want that to be the first thing people see on this blog all day today, not some detailed account of a tearful goodbye to another person. This is the first time, actually, that an otherwise annoying detail of this blog is coming in handy: there's no way to post these entries with time stamps, even though I can mark any date or time I want when posting, so that entries appear in whatever order I want them to. This is why I deliberately type out the time of day all my DLUs are posted, just so it can be seen publicly when viewed online. From your perspective, it'll just look like I posted this entry first and then the poem, even though Shobhit's poem -- fraught with a lot of meaning in the context of events of recent years -- has actually been live since early this morning. It's the first poem I've written expressly about Shobhit in a long time, actually. But I've been thinking a lot about how things like love songs are always about newer relationships, falling in love rather than being in love. I wanted to reflect a sustained love that continues even after many years -- fourteen as of 2018, in our case.

Shobhit and I have dinner reservations tonight at Marrakesh Seattle, a Moroccan restaurant. It was where he wanted to go, after we talked first about maybe going back to Palomino (where we went for Valentine's Day last year) and then just getting Indian food on the Eastside, where reservations would not be necessary. But then for some reason he was all about going back to this place. They confirmed via email a while ago that they would have a special menu and special pricing for Valentine's Day, but never did respond to a follow-up question about vegetarian options. Of course, their website says nothing about Valentine's Day, which is a little annoying. I'm sure it will still be fine and fun and delicious, though. I should take care not to eat too much extra with the typical snacking at work today, come to think of it.

-- चार हजार दो सौ पचास-दो --

So, what's next for me then, anyway? Well, in the short term, beyond today: opening night at Black Panther with Laney on Friday. The Academy Awards are on March 4. Nothing especially noteworthy after that until April: Easter is, amusingly, on April Fool's Day this year. Shobhit wants to go to the Tulip Festival again, sometime in April. Hmm, I wonder if Dad and Sherri will go again? And of course, at the end of that month, my Birth Week, which this year will extend nearly a week into May, since my actual birthday lands on a Monday this year.

Then, a several-week break until mid-June, when Shobhit and I leave for Wallace, Idaho on Saturday, June 9 for our spring visit with Mom and Bill, followed immediately from there on Monday, June 11 with our trip to Yellowstone National Park, which I am very excited about. That's probably the thing I'm looking forward to the most this entire year. And then of course, upon our return the rest of that month will have several Pride events.

I think that does give me plenty to look forward to for the first half of the year. Having things to look forward to is, in my experience, a huge factor in living a happy and contented life.

-- चार हजार दो सौ पचास-दो --


[posted 12:30 pm]